In the past several entries on this blog, I have been hammering on the migration from brute force sourcing models to more sophisticated tactics for optimizing the PS delivery resource pool. I’ve realized these discussions may be becoming too academic for the PS leaders out there that are slugging it out day to day, trying to meet a quarterly nut. As I’ve heard Paul Hofstadler, who sits on the TPSA Advisory Board, state many times: “PS is a game of nickels and dimes.” And so it is. And if you are struggling to collect those nickels and dimes this quarter, I want to leverage some industry data to provide you three killer excuses.
The Regional Wall
First of all, we know it is hard for any service business to predict exactly when service deals will book. Customers get finicky, the scope of projects change, etc. As discussed in previous entries on sourcing, this unpredictability creates lumpiness in demand. There is always that risk you will have too many or too few consultants on hand compared to the business booked.
Now, if the supply does not meet demand this quarter, your boss may ask you if you have done any horse trading with your peers in other geographies.
BOSS: “I heard the London office just signed a huge deal. Can’t you get some of your consultants assigned to that gig?”
Now, a rookie response to this request would sound something like this:
YOU: “Come on boss, you know how messed up our cost transfer processes are. It’s almost impossible for me to lend resources to London without creating a nightmare of paperwork. We are a product company-we are just not set up to share service resources across geographies. “
That kind of response makes it sound like you are blaming your failure on circumstances beyond your control—not very can do. Instead, use specific data points in your favor:
YOU: “You know, according to the industry association on technology services, only 24% of embedded PS organizations like ours manage resources on a global basis. It’s just not the common practice to share specialized resources across geographic boundaries.”
Now, the fact the highest performing embedded PS organizations benchmarked by TPSA do indeed manage resources globally is a fact your boss doesn’t really need to know in this conversation.
The Wrong Roles
If you have the poor misfortune of being in a company that has implemented reasonable processes to share resources across geographies, DON’T DESPAIR, we can still drum up some industry data to support a convincing excuse. When your boss presses on why you aren’t mapping the right number of consultants to your project needs, please patiently explain to the services noob (novice) that not all projects require the same types of resources. The mix of project management and specific technical skills can vary widely based on the type of customer being served and the type of product being implemented. Your boss may press with a more advanced question (apparently, the boss has tangoed with services before):
BOSS: “Don’t you understand the mix of skills required to deliver the projects in your pipeline?”
Good question. Seems fair. Don’t panic! To successfully match required skills to the project pipeline, you would have to have documented resource profiles that describe both the skills and hours required to deliver different types of projects. Fortunately for you, embedded PS organizations do not value this tool.
YOU: “For all of our target services, we document sample proposals, project plans and deliverables. These are important tools for the selling process. In fact, according to industry research (flash the great chart below for emphasis), these are the top three intellectual assets PS organizations create for their solutions. Resource profiles, however, don’t help in the sales process. They are time consuming to create, and, in fact, they are the least likely asset for an embedded PS organization to create. I mean come on, we don’t have a lot of non-billable cycles to throw around.”
The Wrong People
Let’s move into the bonus round. Let’s say your boss is a truly worthy opponent who previously raised concerns about global resource sharing and developing resource profiles. In fact, your boss helped change internal financial processes to make it easy to share resources globally. Your boss also went to bat for you and advocated the funding of non-billable services development staff that were charted to improve solution definitions and to create detailed resource profiles for target offerings. Man, this jerk is clamping off all the escape valves. The quarter is still looking shaky. What card do you play? The skills card, of course.
YOU: “Just so you know, boss, this quarter is going to be dicey. I just don’t have the right people in some of these roles. My sales folks are struggling to position the business value for the complex deals, some of the project managers are not experienced enough in managing scope change, and some of these architects are weaker on customer soft skills than expected. I’m working to make changes, but you know it takes time.”
BOSS: “Why aren’t you hiring the right people?”
YOU: “Hey, their background matches the job descriptions and they fly through our interviewing gauntlet with high marks. Once they get in and assigned to customers, we find out there are some soft spots in their skills.”
BOSS: “Don’t you have a program to develop the skills they need? After all, your product is your people.”
YOU: “Well, I have to tell you, the right starting place would be to have all of our service delivery and service sales staff undergo a formal skills evaluation so we could truly understand what areas require development. But that takes both time and money. You know, only about half of embedded PS organizations have formal skills evaluation programs in place. That tells you it’s not an easy initiative.”
BOSS: “Fair enough. But we either do a better job of matching our resources to what our customer’s need or we get out of the PS business altogether.”
Oops, I just ran out of a pithy industry data point to counter the attack. Let’s hope your boss was successfully rebuked with one of the earlier tidbits. If not, I’m sure there are a host of other reasons fellow PS leaders can bring to the table.